When I first moved to the United States in 1984 to study International Relations, I dreamed of making a new life for myself, as so many immigrants had done before. I pursued that dream by graduating from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, developing a successful local business, and by becoming a loving husband and doting father to two girls.
I soon realized that others did not have the same opportunities to succeed. Whether through discrimination, economic hardship or political disenfranchisement, too many people were being denied their chance to achieve the American Dream. I saw the need for change.
Helping to foster understanding and tolerance within the Pakistani-American community and elected officials, I formed the Pakistani Heritage Club of New York, Americans of Pakistani Heritage and The Corridor Counts.
It became important to me that communities unite together. Before and after 9/11 I coordinated interfaith services for all Christian, Muslims and Jewish communities to create a sense of solidarity in the wake of the City’s greatest tragedy. For nearly five years, I coordinated with the New York Mets to include “Pakistani Night” as part of their International Night at Shea Stadium. In 2000 and 2010, I helped to ensure that the census properly counted all of my neighboring community’s immigrant populations.
As an active member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, an organization dedicated to eliminating inequality, I saw how many immigrants faced the same struggle. I decided I needed to do more. I became the first Pakistani-American to hold a senior government position in the tri-state area by assuming the role of the Director of Minorities and Women Business Enterprises in Nassau County. In this position, I launched a study into the diversity of County businesses and contractors, resulting in increased minority participation in County business. I also took on the position of Special Assistant for Communications and Community Affairs for the Nassau County Executive.
Through this work with immigrants, community members and business owners, I saw firsthand how systematic racism caused disproportionate poverty, leaving ethnic and religious minorities to suffer. I watched student loan interest rates soar, turning college into a luxury of the rich instead of an opportunity to succeed. I saw how a corrupt political system allowed the wealthy to buy off politicians, who often prevented attempts to correct these issues.
Change is never easy, but I worked hard to elect those I believed would best serve the country. Advocating for the Democratic Party, I helped raise money for prominent Democratic leaders, like Senator Kristen Gillibrand and helped campaign for President Obama in 2008. I gathered support for Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez of the 7th District by organizing rallies in my neighboring immigrant communities.
Now, I am prepared to stand up for the people of the 5th Congressional District and fight for our communities’ values in Washington D.C.